April 29, 2014
Highlights for fabricators from the past week’s Web articles—General Motors proves Murphy’s law and takes a big hit, thanks to its cost-focused management; New Jersey launches a rolling initiative to train manufacturing workers statewide; misconceptions about the skill level required for today’s manufacturing workers aren’t exclusive to the U.S.; passing golf on the left, cycling is becoming the preferred networking activity ; and a Flint, Mich., shop bar captures the prosperity and excitement the city once knew.
GM has only itself to blame for the recall crisis that, along with accounting charges, has practically wiped out its profit for the first quarter. Money.cnn.com, among other news sites, reported that the company will spend about $700 million to fix the ignition switch problem and another $600 million on other recalls.
And then there are the lawsuits inherent in an issue that has resulted in injury and death. The company argues that it is shielded by it 2009 bankruptcy from many of the lawsuits filed seeking damages—it’s technically a new company and all—but it has hired an attorney best known for determining how to compensate victims of tragedies such as the Sept. 11 attacks, the BP oil spill, and the Boston Marathon bombing to determine how it may compensate those injured or killed by the faulty switch.
As reported on nj.com, Harold Wirths, commissioner of the New Jersey state Labor Department traveled up and down the state touring businesses in 2010 and was perplexed by what he saw. “When I came in … I had 400,000 people on one side, but I would tour these advanced manufacturers and there would be ‘Help Wanted’ signs all over the place. You don’t know how frustrating that was when you’re cutting 400,000 unemployment checks and you see people having a difficult time hiring skilled workers.”
From this frustration sprang the idea to purchase and equip two mobile labs to advance the N.J. Manufacturing Training Initiative. The first, conceived at Camden County College two years ago, comes equipped with mobile generators, a 384-sauare-foot classroom with computers and training equipment for 10 students. It’s ready to roll, but before it goes anywhere, the initiative is reaching out to manufacturers who are hiring, and if there’s enough interest regionally, the lab will travel to the community college in that region.
On this side of the pond, we say factory jobs; on the other, you might say “low-value engineering jobs,” but we’re talking about the same thing. Even though the terminology used to described them might be different, the misconceptions about them are the same no matter where you are.
Speaking in an opinion piece on news.tes.co.uk, Colin Kennedy, marketing associate at Air Products and a member of the SkillWeld 2014 Committee, wrote, “Metal fabrication skills such as welding have long been considered low value compared to those used in mechanical, computer, or electrical engineering jobs, for example.”But this perception comes from an out-dated belief that metal fabrication work is menial and creates few opportunities for career progression. There is also a perception that it is unattractive because it is usually carried out in a hot and unpleasant environment.
When they discover welding skills for the first time, however, young people are often surprised at what they find. Just a couple of weeks into the training, their perceptions begin to change. They learn about flow rates, how to avoid distortion and techniques for achieving a quality weld using different metals. Getting it right every time requires strong skills and application and they gain a sense of achievement.”
Kennedy noted that “contrary to the expectations of many, good quality metal fabrication skills are in strong demand across the U.K. in thriving industries,” and “some welding novices are also pleased to find that gaining an industry-recognized welding certification can open doors to skilled, contract work overseas.”
When’s the last time you attended a networking event or entertained a client? Were you on a golf course? For many years, golfing was known as the ideal networking past-time—plenty of time to talk and drink and drink and talk and make deals. That distinction soon may be a thing of the past seen only on retro TV shows.
As noted on money.cnn.com, for entrepreneurs and seasoned executives, cycling is the new golf. “Unlike golf, cycling is also a great equalizer,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “You’re the same as the person riding next to you. So it makes people more approachable.”
Clarke also said that entrepreneurs gravitate toward cycling because it’s a better way to stay in shape, and it’s also less time-consuming and relatively less expensive.
Organized cycling networking groups reportedly are springing up all over the country.
Finally, in a real throwback to the past is the profile of Flint, Michigan’s forgotten watering holes—shop bars. Among those featured is J’s Bar & Grill. It’s Wednesday, Retiree Day. Inside J’s is a group of men who spent at least three decades apiece on the opposite side of the street in what was once Buick City, 258 acres—now bare—where 27,000 employees spent at least a third of their day when there had been plenty of overtime.
”There may be no other place that captures the former prosperity and excitement, the very culture of a Flint that once existed, than the shop bar.
”Shop bars were once the watering holes that surrounded the factories that dotted Flint. They were the places that were packed every lunch break, after every shift, where workers would escape management and the monotony of the assembly line. For many, they were a place to cut loose and kick back a few, or several, drinks after work—or during a lunch break.
”And now, they're almost gone.” Just like the jobs responsible for their existence.